About this Show

Al Jazeera World News

News/Business. Independent global news offers a variety of perspectives.

NETWORK

DURATION
00:30:00

RATING
PG-13;V

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel 24 (225 MHz)

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
544

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Us 9, Stanley Krippner 2, Shiva 2, Linda Evans 2, Buddhism 2, Parapsychology 2, Ramtha 1, Barb 1, Romans 1, John Dewey 1, Stalin 1, Suzanne 1, Jesus 1, Evans 1, Bobby 1, Sally 1, Chris 1, Teresa 1, Barbara 1, Yitzhak Rabin 1,
Borrow a DVD
of this show
  LINKTV    Al Jazeera World News    News/Business. Independent global  
   news offers a variety of perspectives.  

    February 14, 2013
    7:00 - 7:30pm PST  

7:00pm
welcome to another session of beliefs and believers. we had a great class last time, looking at the religion process. and also, we just left talking about the seeker style of religion, and that's a great leaping off point for us for looking at religious experience, which is what we're going to do in this class. but first, i know you had a lot of questions and a lot of interesting comments, and i'm particularly interested in your feedback on the religion process, how you see it holding forth. you haven't had a lot of time to think about it, but any questions or comments you'd like to make? >> before self-consciousness
7:01pm
in man, isn't there something more primal, something innate in man that reaches out to the other, even before he becomes self-conscious about anything around him? >> give me an example. that's a good point. >> well, say, an uneducated man, that he would see the sun, and then when we looks around, and he thinks, "that's something other than what's around here; that must be something importan" >> i'm glad you brought that up, because self-consciousness is a difficult term and it may mean different things to different people. i think i'm saying something more along the line of what you're saying, that whenever it happened - 50,000 years ago, 100,000 years ago - the first time a human says, "i'm here; there's the sun." that thing from 2001, remember that old movie? i wasn't born then but people told me about it. but, these sort of apelike creatures looking at the monolith and they're going - and then they start
7:02pm
beating each other up - i don't know what that meant; never did. but yeah, that's more what i'm talking about - it's some fundamental point, if you're an evolution person; if you're a genesis person, then you can throw the whole thing out the window. but if you're a person who believes in evolution, then at whatever point humans evolve into that self-consciousness - and i like your example of the sun, because that would be something that would strike an almost sentient being - that kind of thing. good. questions? yeah, larry? >> i like when you mentioned "before the common era," to use that time chronology instead of always "before christ," "b.c.," because if we only reckon time through christian ways, i think that it's going to be another way of keeping people apart and keeping people separated. at least i think through the world of archaeology, you can get some kind of commonality. >> you're right. and of course, that's just standard training in religious studies - we use "before the common era,"
7:03pm
because it's more inclusive; that's the only reason we use it. it's just a way of including more people. sure, barb? >> two things. i wanted to take off on what val said. in my mind, i think that you almost have to be conscious of yourself first, before you're conscious of something else. i mean, its you're conscious of yourself and then your relationship, to - that other thing. but what i wanted to bring out about the pyramids was that thousands and thousands of slaves died through decades and decades or hundreds of years to build the pyramids. and this was all for the immortality, or religious immortality of the pharaohs. so i mean, there can be warpness in religion also. it can be distorted, yeah. >> but you're so right there, and we don't want to gloss
7:04pm
that over. i mean, somebody had to build those things, and as you so rightly say, people suffered terribly. in fact, the whole saga, if you want to take the biblical saga, that's one of the reasons why the hebrews were oppressed is because the new pharaoh decides that it needs to be even more elaborate building. and we don't want to get away from that. in fact, i was looking through one of our previous classes, and jamie, i think, made the comment, brought us back with a reality check about, let's not just whitewash things and say everything's beautiful. absolutely. when you're talking about identity and relationship and struggle for meaning and purpose, you can cut through the most horrendous kinds of activities. i did a study of nazism when i was in graduate school, and hitler was a master at manipulating the sense of identity and relationship and those nuremberg festivals he'd hold with the drumming, the drumming, the singing,
7:05pm
the lights, and then he'd come on and say, "we are all one!" he'd kind of replaced the divine one - god, the god, the christian god of the majority of the germans, with a german mythos. and he was a genius at manipulating the dramatic mythos. so you're quite right here. stalin - we're talking about people who have a power who understand instinctively the power of religious ideas. and again, we talked about facetiously in grad school, we decided to run a business on like a dating service, but we'll hook you up with the religion of your choice. well, another one we used to sit around and say why would you want to be a religious studies professor and be the lowest one on the totem pole at the university in terms of the pay scale? let's start a cult! and you'd be amazed at how easy it would be with a little religious studies background to start a cult and get people to pull it on in. the only reason i didn't do it is there's no free evenings
7:06pm
if you're running a cult. just kidding! but you're right, when you touch on these things, that some of you are in business or have been in business, and all this positive thinking, this managerial training, this total quality management stuff that's being thrown around as the new managerial ways, well, we're going back to some fundamental ways about identity and relationship and manipulating power, and so that's what i'm saying. we're doing religion in here because - well, it's a religious studies class. but we never want to get out of the way - and that's part of my religious process flow here - is to say that why is religion powerful? well, it 's powerful because it adopts or transforms or makes use of the most common everyday ways that we try to relate to each other. and so you take that, and then you add the amazing other elements we'll look at such as myth and power and experience and you get something that's very volatile,
7:07pm
and can get people dying by the hundreds of thousands. yeah, chris? >> i was thinking about the very beginning and the end of last class, and we talked about in the end the religious styles and belief, communal, and seeker. and then in the beginning, we talked about the individual community conflict, and for me, the seeker style and the communal style are just reflections of that true struggle between communal and individual. and i've even seen it in the comments of people in this class, as they talk about "i liked to feel in a group, but i wasn't all there with what they believed." so that was like their individually speaking and seeking, and that was the seeker in them. >> you're very right there, and it brings up the idea that these styles interrelate,
7:08pm
because when you think about a seeker style, well, you're communal, you like the community, you like the belief, but something in it doesn't quite fit your individual needs. and i've raised this point up before, just simply as a reflecting thing: is it entirely possible that one set of doctrines, one religion, would entirely fulfill a person? i've invited the pope to come to class - i think he's declined - but it would be nice to have him come down here and say that he's 100 percent totally satisfied with every single aspect of roman catholicism. and he'd probably say yes, but one wonders. i mean, isn't there a little bit of a seeker in all of us? we like the belief and that gives us structure. we like the communal. but one thing i try to express is there is nothing wrong with seeking. i'm sorry your minister, pastor, guru, religious leader may find fault with that statement, but i think seeking even within one's own faith
7:09pm
allows it only to become richer. and we want to think about that when we go through it. also in a free society, it can allow you to step out of a particular tradition and move down the road and adopt something that makes more sense to you, or on a rare occasion - and we'll come to this when we get to the social dimension and look at the creation of new religious movements, which is actually the area of religious studies that fascinates me the most - sometimes people actually start one. nothing fits the bill, but somehow they come up with a new idea, and swoosh - that was the piece from mount of the beatitudes we went through in the other class, that jesus was not trying to subvert the jewish law - i think, as barbara said, he came to fulfill it, as scripture says. but in that fulfilling, he's reinterpreting identity, reinterpreting relationship, and he's seeking. he's a strong believer. look at matthew, he knows his tora, backwards and forwards.
7:10pm
but he's seeking, and in that seeking - well, somebody said it; i forget who it was, the great comment in the last class, "you better bet careful about seeking; you might actually find." then look out, you may suffer a very serious result, which of course jesus did - punishment by the romans. good point. yeah, sure. >> we talked about the number of religions in the world and all the jews and the christians and the different groups, but in a way, because i think most of us are seekers, i think that each person has their own religion, and it's just a little different. there's not such a thing as - you're part of a bigger group, but you still have your own little religion; it's not always the same as the whole group, the way i see it. >> again, i'm talking as an anthropologist here out in the field, and i've gone and talked to a lot of different religious people in a lot of settings,
7:11pm
and i find that to be somewhat the case, that there's a little inner sanctum in here, a special place inside of you if you're a religious person, that only has your things in it - whatever those things might be. i think that's a very valid point. yeah, go ahead. >> what i was going to say was maybe someone doesn't go out to seek, but because they reach out like suzanne was reaching out for the gentleman that was dying she might go into a different realm that she possibly wasn't used to, and then you learn from those kind of experiences also. >> sometimes you're not seeking; you're just going along just as you will, and then life comes along and boom, you get a kick. and that's what i mean by - rites of passage don't necessarily have to be these major events. a rite of passage can be something that's accidental, that occurs here. helen, let me get you in here. >> it seems that for many of us
7:12pm
who have you might say tangled roots - that is, many traditions in our ancestry - there's a process of seeking that's weaving it together. i heard a wonderful korean theologian woman speaking at a religious conference, and she had in her background shinto and buddhism and daoism and christianity - she is herself now a professor of christian theology at a seminary in new york. but this the quote from her that really struck me. she said, "you cannot achieve integrity until you reconcile with the religion of your ancestors." so she has a big job, because she has several big - but a lot of us have many threads to weave together if we look at our past. >> and that quote, again, takes us - it's wonderful with religion, and i think you're right, and i also think it takes a little bit of maturity to do that. you can't be fully a family until you're old enough to reconcile with that parent,
7:13pm
or that sister or that brother, and we hold off on doing that sort of thing. but i believe you need to reconcile. it doesn't mean that you need to go back and sign up with your religion. we've had several comments from people who have left the religion of their birth and gone on. i'm something of the same sort, but i found that i had to come back and reconcile, and it's a very wise thing - i think it's also a very difficult thing in our growth. well, we'll stay with these question. i have a short roll-in. we like to bring these roll-ins in because we spend so much money going out and doing them, we've got to use them. no. we want to do them because they illustrate key class themes. and this is a short one, but a really wonderful one for where we are. we're about to do some notes on religious experience, and in our various travels, we simply asked different people who were seekers, but had found a kind of spirituality, and are trying to express to us why their spirituality satisfies them.
7:14pm
now, one of the seekers in here is a very famous semi-retired actress. and if anyone can name this person, you win a lifetime free pass to the wal-mart of your choice. so keep your eye peeled here as we go into the roll-in, but we have a series of seekers who are finders in this short tape. >> it changes every aspect of your life. and it makes you realize that there is nothing that you can't do, and whatever your dream is, you know you can attain it by just focusing on it and wanting it. and there is no limitation; you don't ever have to accept that things have to be the way they are, that you can have them however you want them to be. so to me, there's an excitement and a growth and a passion that i have with him because he feels the same way. so when he does something, it fires me to do it. and i may never have done it before, but when i see him do it, it makes me want to do it even more, and so i push, and then when i push, it pushes him.
7:15pm
and so ultimately, we have the same thing in common, and that power just - it just sores; it's like there isn't anything we feel we can't do. >> and all i do is speak to their subconscious god. as i'm listening to their lungs, i'm praying for god to heal them, and we use a term, it's called shiva - that shiva will come and bless them and enrich them, and heal them. and then i also do a therapeutic touch where i massage their neck and i massage their shoulders and i massage going down their back. and even people who come into my office who are crying in acute pain, they leave laughing. >> because i know jesus has done a lot for me. he's rescued me from drugs, he's rescued me from bad relationships, he's given me new opportunities, and there's no way i could ever repay what he's given me, because it's a gift that he's given me. >> it means that you have totally surrendered to god.
7:16pm
it means that you have committed yourself to a thought, and have not let fear or doubt come in to take it away from you, and you have spent either weeks, months, years, hours, minutes, seconds doing it. and depending on what the thought is, how accepting you are in your mind of it, as to how great you feel when you get it, because how much you had to overcome to claim this as your truth. >> the hardest thing for me, going through puberty and stuff, is that i've had a low sense of self-worth, and being the teachings has helped me understand myself more, and i guess - and i think i've been able to help my sister because she's just starting to go through puberty right now, and it's like, when you're changing and stuff. i don't know, everything starts getting chaotic, you know.
7:17pm
and i was really hard on myself, but being in the teachings helped me learn to just love myself, and not care so much about needing to be the same. >> see, that's why we wanted to go through some seekers who had just found, because you hear them talking about how it's changed their life, and if you listen through their specific examples, you're hearing about how it's changed their identities, changed their relationship. the first couple was married - it changed the way they relate to each another. the second woman she's a doctor who graduated from yale medical school and works in a very prestigious hospital, but applies her spiritual techniques to her practice. the fellow who was wet actually came out of the river jordan - we'll go back to that. but when we talk about myth and ritual and how those relate, we just happened upon
7:18pm
the river jordan and here's this spot where people are going back to be rebaptized in the exact spot where jesus did it. and then the younger woman, struggling, as she said, with puberty. here's a spiritual teaching that helped her sort through that very difficult part. now, for that lifetime free pass, do you want to take a shot? >> linda evans? >> yes! vanna, buy this woman a vowel! this is good. good. you get to go to the wal-mart of your choice. it's linda evans, who just happened to - and i was just-well, i'm an old dynasty fan and even can go back to big valley. so it was amazing to find her at this particular spiritual center, and she'd agreed to do an interview, and there it was. so she's a wonderful example, and we may come back to her, but here we have linda evans who just - i can't even imagine the residuals from dynasty, played all over the world - a millionairess - well, she lost yanni, but what are you going to do, you can't have everything -
7:19pm
everything you could want materially, a wonderful life, but she decides to set that aside to go on an intensive spiritual search, and that's where she found meaning. she came to dinner with us afterwards and we talked about that and she went into great length, and it was very impressive about how she just could discard what so many people think they want that would fulfill me - "i would be so happy if i only had this." and she had all that, but none of it gave her meaning, and so she turned that over to - for the religious experience she had. so it's a good leap into that kind of attitude about religious experience. yeah, larry? >> what spiritual center did you meet her at? >> well, we'll come to that spiritual center. it was the ramtha school of enlightenment. as a matter of fact, we'll have a member from that school come into class, and we have a whole special class on that, because jz knight
7:20pm
is a woman who channels - meaning she allows a spirit to come through her and teach - a 35,000-year-old ascended master. and i like this particular piece and again, i don't want to go into it to too much length because we're going to devote a whole class to it, but i like this piece because it jars our establishment religious sensibilities, because the wonderful juxtaposition is that in a dominantly christian society, people are comfortable with the concept of a human being dying, coming back to life, and ascending to heaven, as though that happened every day. it's an astounding statement, and well worth the power of the belief there, but do we want to talk about a 35,000-year-old ascended master who speaks through a woman? that's a little bit more troublesome. so when we get to myth and ritual, we'll come back and look at them and have a chance to sort that out, but that was the group. >> did the seekers continue seeking?
7:21pm
did you ask them if they continue to search, look, or do they become complacent maybe and just stay where they are? >> we don't know, and it's very interesting, because in some of these cases we don't even know if the movement will last. that's why i love studying new religious movements, because you never know. i mean, it could last for two millennia; it could die out in less than a generation. the ones we got to were just so excited, and they wanted to talk and they were so thrilled about it. what happens six, seven years down the road? we don't know. what happens 25 years down the road when they want to take little sally and little bobby in here and say, "guess what? you belong to this group." and they go, "huh? this doesn't make it, mom." so the group loses it's second generation. i mean, that's the death knell for a new religious movement - if you don't capture the second generation, then you're more than likely going to fade out pretty darn quickly. i mean, that's why -
7:22pm
we'll get to mormonism, too, but the mormon religion was so brilliant, because it had various things entered in that allowed it to make positive the production and the holding of the next generation, which it does. oh, annette, you haven't had something to say in a while, then, i'll get to you, jen. >> this couple that talked, just something struck me. the woman said that they had so much power, and she worked off him and he worked off her and between the two of them, they could really do anything, that there was nothing they couldn't do. that scares me, because what do they do when something bad happens that they can't change? do they decide that that was what it was supposed to be, so they're okay with it? because it sounded like she was never going to accept anything that she didn't have control over. >> well, control is a fascinating issue. and do you know how we mess ourselves up with the desire to control so much. it's one of the great challenges that we have, and religion - you're hitting on it. religion can be, from one perspective - i want to control my life,
7:23pm
so i'm going to be religious; or it can be a letting go - as we might see in zen buddhism, when we get to buddhism - it can be a letting go. so it's a very difficult thing. for these people, i think they've learned to take challenges of something that moves them on and helps them to grow. but we don't know - we just met them for a few minutes. we're just trying to get the idea here. yeah, janet? >> i've kind of - that relates to her and then another story. there is a religion where they have this thing called prasadena [sp], which means, "it's a blessing." and whatever happens to them, they say, " prasadena "; it means, "it's a blessing." so if you inherit a million dollars, it's a blessing; if your car gets hit by a tree that falls on it, it's a blessing - whatever it is, it's a blessing. >> well, i want you to come back to your story, but that is something we found at this particular school because - and i don't want to take this too far, because you can just become a fatalist here - but so often it's our ego, selfish orientation that makes one thing good and one thing bad. now obviously if you're
7:24pm
standing on the railroad tracks and the metra's coming along, it wouldn't be real good to get hit by it - you might want to move. but for a lot of - and we've all had this, i bet-a lot of times, things that we thought were really bad turned out to be so important for our next step in life, and i think that's kind of the attitude they try to take. other things are just bummers - what are we going to do? what's your story? fire away. >> i thought of an experience that i had when i wasn't seeking, but something that just happened to me. one day i was in canada at the kilarney provincial park, and i wandered off to make photographs by myself away from my group. i spent the entire day in this beautiful like national park area all by myself. and you know what? i had always been very dependent upon having someone else with me to talk to, to chat with, but i learned that day that i could be alone and it's okay, and that really was a big
7:25pm
change in my life - it changed my perspective. i want you to come back to that story, if not in this class, in our class coming up on mysticism and meditation, because i want to ask you what actually - could you articulate what happened in that quiet and that silence. but that's exactly the kind of thing i mean, and we're actually going to talk about this when we get to our formal notes on religious experience i want to get through today. but one more videotape, one more roll-in. another world expert we managed to corral in one of our journeys - stanley krippner. and if we're going to talk about religious experience, we are naturally going to move into some of the more interesting times such as near-death experiences, clairvoyance, the ability to move objects. what are these paranormal things? and janet mentioned that these folks in estonia, when deprived of religion,
7:26pm
seemed to gravitate towards physical experiential sorts of things. and stanley krippner is a professor at the saybrooke institute in san francisco, and is the world expert on paranormal kinds of religious and spiritual experience. and by expert, it's taken a long time for parapsychology and paranormal investigation to be allowed into the academy, to be accepted as bona fide, and he is respected. he goes about it in an academic way, and i think it's very interesting before we leap into a discussion of religious experience that can be so unusual, as you probably know, that we hear from a scholar and an academic about how he has gone around the world literally and studied people who are involved and have experienced this kind of phenomena. so let's hear from stanley krippner at saybrooke institute.
7:27pm
>> i separate religion from spirituality. spirituality is an involvement in transcendent experience - an experience which goes into something higher or deeper or broader, depending on what metaphor you want to use, than ordinary human experience. now again, spirituality can be benevolent, it can be malevolent, it can be functional, it can be dysfunctional. a person can hear the voice of god and can go out and help the poor like mother teresa did; one person can hear the voice of god and go out and kill yitzhak rabin like the jewish law students did in israel. so again, a transcended experience is part of what i call spirituality. and of course, spirituality can be a devotion to the ecology or to humankind; it doesn't even have to involve a diety of any sort. now religion, on the other hand, is institutionalized,
7:28pm
it involves a belief system, it involves ritual, it involves a body of believers. and so one can be religious without being spiritual; one can be spiritual without be religious; one can be both religious and spiritual; or one can be neither religious or spiritual. now, you can be neither religious or spiritual and still study human consciousness, and still study dreams, parapsychology, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, even past-life experiences, and interpret these unusual phenomena within what we might call a materialistic framework. we simply don't know enough about these experiences yet to know which is the best framework by which we can study and interpret them. >> so the scientific study of extraordinary human experience is really what you've been involved in? >> yes, that's right. we go back to john dewey, who was very wise when he said that science asks different questions than religion does,
7:29pm
and so we don't really have to confuse them or mix them up. science asks what, how, when, where, and religion and philosophy ask why. see, that's a little bit different. now many people are only concerned with asking, why? and, what does it all mean? what is the purpose of life? how can i attribute meaning to what i do? and they forget about asking the question, "how does it work? and, how can i make it work better?" those are all scientific questions. so again, science and religion do not have to be incompatible - they simply ask different questions. near-death experiences - when do they happen? what type of people have them? what are the neurological and psychological mechanisms? these are all scientific questions. now, what do they mean? those are the philosophical and religious questions.